by Kate Harvey
When people hear I work for a tech/software company, I tend to get questions like “so, you’re surrounded by ping pong tables and beer all day long?” Eh, not exactly.
I explain Chargify is 100% distributed, so we don’t have a specific “office” that everyone goes into. Instead, my remote coworkers and I are spread out across the United States (and a few globally). I can work anywhere there is a strong internet connection.
But, when you don’t have an office or campus to surround your employees with ping pong tables and free snacks, how do you reward remote team members in ways that are meaningful?
At Chargify we’ve leaned towards creating and offering benefits that align with our core values and overall company culture — two things we’re very proud of.
Here are some examples of ways we’ve created meaningful benefits for remote employees that align with our core values:
Work / Life Balance
A part of our Fresh & Fun core value speaks directly to the importance of this balance:
“We work hard, have fun, and keep balance in our lives. Yep, we encourage work/life balance.”
Some benefits to help Chargify team members embrace work/life balance:
Generous Vacation Policy
Chargify employees receive 4 weeks paid vacation annually. And we encourage everyone to use that vacation time.
We’ve looked at different options for vacation time over the years, including unlimited time off. But we decided against that route because there is a large amount of evidence that people actually take less time off (or none) under that vacation policy.
Kik CEO Ted Livingston says their company found the same:
“We found ‘take as much as you want’ actually did the reverse—people took less. The dirty little secret is that nobody will take vacation—it’s the nobody-takes-vacation policy.”
Work Wherever You Want
Remember, remote work in itself is a benefit that many people are jealous of…
One of our developers lives in New York, but spends two months every winter with his family in Florida. His work day stays the same — the only thing that changes is the view from his desk chair.
With a workcation, you can work your regular work day and then spend time being a tourist with your family after work and on weekends.
Another Chargify team member is a digital nomad. He and his wife bought a RV and are in the middle of a year-long road trip around the United States. He has a dedicated office space in his RV and when a change of scenery is needed he sits outside or at a coffee shop.
Be More Productive
We’ve found that being remote means that employees can work from the environment they’re the most productive in. For some of our team members that means a home office. For others it means their deck or a coworking space that looks out at the beach. You can see some of our team members’ work spaces below:
As part of employees being able to work wherever they are most comfortable, we also provide a laptop and monitor. Additionally, every Chargify team member receives a monthly $150 reimbursement to cover the costs related to their office spaces (i.e. internet, phone, etc.).
Always Improving, Learning, and Growing
Company and employee growth is so important we’ve made it one of our core values — Improving Always. Here’s part of the definition for the Improving Always value:
“We’re always seeking ways to do and be better, both individually and as a company.”
We’ve created several ways for Chargify team members to continually learn and grow:
Every Chargify employee is encouraged to seek out learning resources. We don’t have strict guidelines around this — basically “spend whatever you think is reasonable” on educational resources. You can buy books, take online courses, subscribe to a video service, etc.
In the future we may need to make more formal guidelines, but this has worked well for us thus far and no one has abused this perk.
Lunch & Learn
Once a month the development team hosts a “Lunch & Learn” event. A team member prepares a topic in advance and then teaches it to the rest of the team over lunch. Other times the team watches a video (i.e. a conference presentation, video tutorial, etc.) over screenshare followed by a team discussion.
Lunch & Learn’s often correspond with “Free Lunch Fridays,” (we’ll explain those more below) so Chargify treats everyone to lunch and…well, learning.
Company Paid Events
As part of every employee’s continued education, Chargify also pays for team members to attend relevant conferences throughout the year. A few examples: our dev team goes to ElixirConf (photo below), the marketing team attends SaaStr Annual, and one of our customer support team members will be at Zendesk’s Relate Live this week.
As with the learning resources, we don’t have strict guidelines around this benefit. If a team member thinks they will learn something from the conference, we’re open to sending them. They simply need to ask and get approval from their manager.
Employee Appreciation & Team Building
A Gallup study found that “individuals who receive regular recognition and praise” not only “receive higher loyalty and satisfaction scores from customers,” they are also more:
- Engaged with coworkers
- Likely to remain working at the company
We couldn’t agree more! Here are some of the ways we show our team members they’re appreciated:
Free Lunch Fridays
As a distributed team we don’t have the option of going out to lunch together on a regular basis, so we do the next best thing: Chargify pays for lunch every Friday!
There are usually pre- and post-lunch talks (and food pics) on Slack about what everyone is eating that day. Sometimes we start talking about it the day before!
Lunch talk may seem small, but it’s just one more way we keep remote workers engaged.
Gift Cards to Say Thanks
Directors, and even our CEO, reward team members who have gone above and beyond with gift cards — Starbucks is a popular option. For Christmas one of the ways our CEO said “thanks for a great year” was to gift everyone a generous Amazon gift card.
Conspiracy Santa takes place in December and is similar to “Secret Santa” gift giving. The person receiving the gift doesn’t know what they’ll be getting, but all the other participants share gift ideas for them and vote on the best gift to give. Each gift is approximately $100 and Chargify pays for the gifts.
As a remote team, we ship everybody’s gift directly to them and then everyone opens their presents during a video call. Participation is voluntary, but we have yet to have someone who didn’t want to be part of it.
In addition to showing appreciation for team members, this is a great remote team building activity! Everyone learns more about each other via the gift suggestions, bonds over the present opening, and then photos of those gifts being used are shared on Slack throughout the year. Here’s everybody showing their Conspiracy Santa gifts last year:
Once a year we have a company-wide meetup so everyone can get important face-to-face time. The location changes each year. This year’s meetup was in Austin, but some of our previous meetups have been in Miami, Vail, and Savannah.
The key to a successful meetup is remembering it isn’t all about work.
The purpose of the meetup is team building, so we make sure there are a variety of activities outside of company presentations and breakout sessions. This year’s meetup activities included bowling, escaping puzzle rooms, riding a mechanical bull, and hitting golf balls:
If you have a remote team, check out our tips on planning a remote team meetup before your next one.
A part of our Smart Choices core value is the belief that every team member and every role is essential to the company. So, we help our team members plan for the future and financially protect their families.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. To help team members prepare for retirement, an employee’s 401k contributions are matched by Chargify (up to 3% of your salary). The matching helps encourage team members to contribute and start planning for retirement.
Just In Case
We’re one big family here. While we hope nobody ever has the need to use it, every Chargify employee is provided life insurance, short-term disability insurance, and long-term disability insurance to help protect them and their families.
Conveniently, a part of our Here To Help core value speaks directly to our commitment to give back:
“We love to lend a hand wherever we can because we value building trust and community.”
Here are some of the benefits we’ve created that align with the core value:
Once a year, each Chargify employee selects one charity of their choice and the company donates $150 to every charity.
I not only love that Chargify makes the donation to a charity important to me, but I also like being introduced to new nonprofits via my coworker’s charity selections.
Time to Volunteer
Because we encourage a healthy work/life balance and have created a number of benefits to help remote workers maintain that balance, team members have time to volunteer with organizations that are important to them.
For example, as I write this, our graphic designer is in Ecuador volunteering with a local organization. And one of our customer success team members founded a nonprofit to support NICU babies and their families. Every month they send out over 100 baskets (see the photo below) to Colorado and Wyoming hospital NICU’s!
As you can see, there are a variety of perks and benefits you can create for remote employees that show you appreciate and care about them. At Chargify we’ve found the best way to reward our remote team in meaningful ways is to align benefits with our core values. Every company is different — what are some of the perks and benefits your company has for remote employees?